Friday, February 24, 2012

BASARC Training

Over the weekends of February 11 - 12 and 18 - 19, 2012, four BAMRU
members attended and successfully completed Bay Area Search and Rescue Council's (BASARC) Managing the Lost Person Incident (MLPI) course.  One BAMRU member assisted with instruction.

The course discussed search management, particularly the
section chief roles, in all phases of a search from the initial
decision to initiate a call out, through hasty and multiple operational
periods, and through successful finds, suspension decisions,
demobilization, and continued search efforts in the event that a
subject is not found. 

All BAMRU members gained greater knowledge of
the BASARC standard of search management and experience working with
other Bay Area teams in a management capacity.  We extend our thanks to
BASARC for the invitation for us to attend and providing the
opportunity to learn from our search and rescue colleagues.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Additional Promotions of early 2012

We've had such a great start to the year that it's been hard to keep up!

Ranger Gibbs at rock skills training.
Kurt instructing comms to new recruits.

In addition to the members in the previous post, BAMRU also promoted Kurt Gross early this year from trainee to field member.  Kurt is an EMT and spent several seasons as a back country ranger in Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park.  Kurt is one of two experienced NPS Rangers on our team, the second being John Gibbs who joined us towards the end of 2011.

Ed Daley kicked off 2012 as another one of our newest Field Members.  If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend that you sit down with him sometime and ask him about his pilot days and about his experience working with NASA....or climbing with Chouinard.
Ed on Andesite ridge in January.

Last but not least, this year we also welcomed John Lissoway onto the team as a trainee.  John is an M.D. who has come the Bay Area to complete a fellowship at Stanford in wilderness medicine.

John L. trying his hand at placing pickets.

Congrats and welcome!  BAMRU is honored to have such a breadth of experience on the team.

Time Flies When You're Searching and Rescuing

Where has the time gone?!  Below is a belated summary of 2011, another banner year for BAMRU, and a brief update on 2012 thus far.  Now if we could just get a little snow!
Emilie on the summit of Mt. Kosciusko
post surgery! 

Recent promotions and team accomplishments:

  • Emilie Cortes has moved from Support member to Trainee member after facing a long ACL surgery recovery which is still in progress. Congrats Emilie, so glad to see you on the mend!
  • Blake Gleason received his Technical Rock skills endorsement.
  • Chris Kantarjiev received his Technical Rock and Snow and Ice skills endorsements.

These are two of three endorsements that team members can earn towards becoming a technical member of the team (the third being in Navigation and Wilderness Search).  Earning an endorsement in any of these disciplines means that the individual has a depth of experience with the extensive set of skills in each category that allows them to confidently and safely use them in the field.  Congratulations Chris and Blake!

Blake in his element as litter attendant ~1,000ft. from the
valley floor!
Chris on Mt. Rainier, a successful summit day! 14,411ft. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Skyline Blvd., Clouds Rest Search

At 0254 on Sunday February 12th, BAMRU was paged for an in county search off of Skyline Blvd.

The subjects were two teenagers who had gone for a walk at 2300 hrs. They had subsequently called their parents to alert them that they had become disoriented and estimated themselves to be about 1 mile from the trail head.

Command Post was set up in the back of a truck at the Vista Point trail head on Skyline Blvd by the San Mateo County SAR team. Reports from the subjects' last phone call indicated that they had walked about 200ft from the trail entrance, turned 90 degrees to the right and taken the trail about a mile or so before becoming disoriented and lost. BAMRU team members followed the description of the route in an attempt to find the point last seen and see if they might be hunkered down somewhere nearby. Searchers also searched the area between Skyline and the trail, and along the entire network of trails in the direction which the subjects had traveled. Dog teams were also on scene.

The fog was incredibly dense and it was cold, windy, muddy and wet. Hypothermia was definitely a concern for potentially under-prepared subjects. After searching for approximately two hours with no significant clues or responses to voice calls, we returned to CP. While waiting for the next search assignments, a call came in over the radio that they had been located alive and well. They were at the end of the Alder Spring Trail where they had sought shelter for the night.

We are very happy that the two were uninjured and returned home safe.

Monday, February 6, 2012

All Dressed Up And No Place To Go

What's a mountain rescue team to do when there isn't enough snow in the mountains to bury a picket? Well, if you're all dressed up for snow and there isn't any around, strip a few layers and head to the beach!

This year's unusually low snow fall has us all a bit stirred up. As a team accredited by the Mountain Rescue Association (MRA), each year we are required to go through a re-accreditation process in one of three mountain rescue disciplines; Technical Rock, Technical Snow & Ice, and Wilderness Search. This year, we were slated to join other MRA teams from the region in early March for the technical snow and ice re- accreditation. Sadly, last week the decision was made to postpone the event until next year due to inadequate snow cover.

As San Franciscans have basked in the sun and enjoyed a beautiful "June-uary" here by the bay, BAMRUvians have been cancelling or rescheduling snow trainings, and scrambling to find areas where we can practice these important rescue skills.

The last weekend of January, 12 team members headed up to Tahoe and camped out near Donner Summit. There was just enough snow to demonstrate an avalanche pit and build a few impressive snow shelters. We were able to place snow pickets, build a few bollards, practice beacon searches and a probe line. While we were able to accomplish all of our goals, the snow level was less than impressive. Soon after this lack luster introduction to winter, what little snow there was has continued to melt even more.

Two of our dedicated team members weren't going to let this dry season get in the way ofrefreshing their crevasse rescue skills. Eszter and Chris made the best of the blue skies and headed out to the beach this past weekend to brush up on their Z-rigs and snow anchors.

The results are below:
"It proved impossible to pound a snow picket in vertically more than 6" - at least, not without using a heavier hammer than we had brought. That happens in hard-pack snow sometimes, at which point you either dig a T-slot (bury the picket horizontally) or declare it ice and use a screw.

Digging a shallow T-slot in wet sand proved completely reasonable, which was 
really surprising. It's a lot like digging one in snow - there's enough
cohesion in the sand that the slot maintains enough integrity that you can form
all the component parts and bury the picket and have something that looks like
an anchor.
But it isn't really an anchor. The big difference shows up here: if you stomp on snow, either before digging to "work harden" it, or after burying to compact it, you are forming new, larger, crystal structures that contribute to the integrity of the anchor.

This doesn't happen in sand. So all you have for anchor integrity in the sand is, basically, the weight of the sand plus a *little* "mud effect", where there is some localized cohesion of the particles, basically through the surface tension of water (I'm guessing).

So light tension on the line to simulate a load while building and operating
the system was completely reasonable. But once we started to try to haul even a bodyweight load, the anchor ripped right out."

Hopefully the snow will eventually come, and we will be able to put our beach skills to use. In the meantime, three thumbs up for creative and fun training solutions. Our puffies, shovels, ice axes and pickets are waiting!